Saturday, April 07, 2007

Boston Underground Film Festival Sunday: ¡El Presidente! and Roman

There would be more than "just" BUFF stuff in this post, considering that the Brattle blessed me with a whole bunch of Hot Fuzz preview passes - one for coming to the Hot Fuzztival programs, another for being an Usher-level member in good standing, two more for being among the top finishers in the Watch-a-Thon - but doing the BUFF wound up more or less precluding seeing it: By the time I got out of ¡El Presidente! at about five o'clock, there was a line that went from the door, up the steps, and then wrapped around two sides of the building. I was able to cut in line a litte by finding my brother Matt, but by the time they finished letting people in, Matt and I still hadn't gotten to the stairs.

So we went to Uno's for pizza and then back home to watch a couple episodes of Spaced that were still on the DVR. Gotta get our Wright & Pegg fix somehow.

While waiting, we were treated to a wrestling show from B.L.O.W.W. (Boston League of Women Wrestlers) and La Lucha Negra. Matt's graduating with a theater degree next month, and I'll be every one of the ladies putting on the show wsa a theater major recently. I started to tease him about what kind of jobs would be available with his degree, but then I remembered they probably weren't getting paid.

They don't just hand out paying jobs for people in the arts, which makes what the filmmakers at BUFF achieved even more remarkable. Many of them are rough, and I readily admit that I probably wouldn't pay full price to most of them, but they made movies, and for the most part made them their way. Considering how many people and how much money making a movie can take, it's hard not to respect that.

The Woods

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 March 2007 at The Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival IX/Sunday Eye Opener)

I'd alread seen this, on film even, at last year's Fantasia festival (HBS review here), and heard Lucky McKee do a Q&A for it. This time was a bit of a different experience - I knew a lot of the people in the audience, and knew most of what was coimng, which made it different for me. Also, I think that last year McKee was still too close to the project: He answered a lot of questions by just saying "studio/political bullshit" and really just seemed to want to move on. It had also been shot in Montreal, so maybe the place had bad memories for him, although I don't give that idea much credence.

For BUFF, he had almost another year behind him, and he'd done a couple of projects that were going over well since then. The Fantasia crowd is enthusiasts with questions like "how awesome was working with Bruce Campbell?!??!!", while the Chlotrudis folks had a few questions about production design and collaborators along with how awesome it was working with Bruce Campbell. I also think Roman helped him remember some of why he likes making films, and that you can do it without all the studio bullshit.

Although I have to admit, between the Q&As for The Woods and Roman, I found myself a little disappointed to realize that McKee would probably never do something as elaborate as The Woods, or even May, for quite some time, if ever again. He seems happy making small films as part of a collective with the other Mo-Freek people (Angela Bettis, Kevin Ford, and Eddie Steeples from the previous day's When Is Tomorrow were all part of Roman's cast and crew), and while some of his complaints about the production of The Woods did make me think MGM was a bunch of meddling jerks, some of the others didn't so much. He seemed genuinely shocked that one low-budget film with a cult following didn't mean he could bring most of May's cast and crew with him on a director-for-hire job.

It's kind of sad, I think, because he said part of what had to be cut for budget was some big CGI action scenes toward the end, so he's not a guy for whom big-budget filmmaking would be total anathema. But, if a guy's not comfortable with business's golden rule ("he with the gold makes the rules"), then it's probably a pretty good thing that he is content working on the indies, and that a good horror movie doesn't have to cost a lot.

¡El Presidente!

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 24 March 2007 at The Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival IX)

¡El Presidente! is probably not for you. Sure, that's true of most films that aren't built in a studio laboratory with the intention of selling it to as many people as possible. Even with that said, ¡El Presidente! seems to be made for a tiny audience - just how many fans of the Incredibly Strange Wrestling promotion are there, and how many of them are going to drop money on a DVD that is more story than action?

That story is fanciful: On the island of Cabo San Luchas (if that name doesn't amuse you a little, jump to the next review now), where pro wrestling is not just unscripted but a lifestyle, there is a city called Boys' Town where nearly the entire population is gay men. Boys' Town is about to elect a new Presidente, and the popular favorite is El Homo Loco. Upon seeing this news, The Oi Boy decides to run against him, aiming to expose him as a complete fairy, utterly failing to grasp that this is a huge part of his appeal. Still, he'll have help from unexpected quarters - Erika Kanine (Leanne Borghesi), the cackling wicked-witch type who lives on a castle on the hill, has a video that she claims will expose El Homo Loco as a complete fraud, while his new campaign manager, Jacqueline Smart (Beth Trifilo) is clearly in the special interests' pockets. And how does the secret romance between the assistant at Channel 69 (Jamin Barton) and Snackette #1 (Amber Clisura), one of the scantily-clad sidekicks of The Snackmaster (who resembles a giant frankfurter), fit into everything?

I don't follow even wrestling's more popular promotions very closely, let alone Incredible Strange Wrestling, so I don't know how or if ¡El Presidente! fits into ISW's storylines. There's something strangely logical about one of these outfits doing a movie; wrestling shows are basically soap operas whose plots turn on what goes on in the ring, so why not do the occasional story and invent a setting where the wrestling ring is an accepted means of dispute mediation? It's unusual, but not that strange idea.

Full review at HBS.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 24 March 2007 at The Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival IX)

I'd like to talk about Roman without mentioning May, for a number of reasons. First, I didn't particularly like May (which has gained a following despite my expressing disappointment to as many as a half-dozen people) and do like Roman. Second, I worry a little that doing so makes Roman look like just a gimmick film: Lucky McKee directed May with Angela Bettis as the title character, while Bettis directs McKee here. With McKee writing the script, it's very easy to think of Roman as McKee's follow-up to May and discount Bettis's contribution.

It's hard not to notice the similarities, of course - Roman (McKee) is a loner, spending the hours after he gets home from his work as a welder sitting in his apartment by himself, waiting for his pretty neighbor (Kristen Bell) to get her mail. One day they actually meet, and talk, and kind of hit it off, although not quite as much as Roman thinks and... well, it doesn't end well. Soon another young woman moves into the complex; Eva (Nectar Rose) is a quirky artist, similarly pretty but more inclined to pursue him. She's fascinated by death, which is sort of an uncomfortable subject for Roman right now.

As much as the themes of the two movies are similar, they're visually complete opposites. May was shot on film, with deep black shadows that a person could almost reach out and grab hold of. Roman is shot on digital video and looks it; especially under the harsh industrial lighting at Roman's place of employment. Daytime shots are bathed in California sunshine, penetrating Roman's spartan apartment through a a large picture window. Even nighttime shots seem clear and crisp. Bettis and Cinematographer Kevin Ford are very canny here, not using video as a budget-minded substitute for film but instead making use of is specific properties to make Roman feel very immediate and voyeuristic. The movie often seems like a disturbing home video, even when it's doing things like allowing Roman to narrate or letting us hear the whispers in his head and the images that go along with them.

Full review at HBS.

1 comment:

Movies Reviews said...

My blog, do you want exchange with me ? send me back . thanks